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James Stephen, a Rural partner at Carter Jonas, SW, comments on this year’s harvest;

“This year looks like one of those difficult harvests, as we now seem to be well and truly stuck in a pattern of low pressure systems rolling in off the Atlantic, one after another. This means that after a generally dry and warm spring and early summer, farmers are now struggling to harvest the crops which hitherto looked as though they were going to yield reasonably well.

“In fact, harvest started quite well in July, with much of the winter barley and winter oilseed rape being taken off quite easily. In many places farmers were ahead of schedule, but as the schools broke up for the “summer”, the rain came down and since then it has been very “stop – start”.

“This is a period of huge frustration for arable farmers because they can see all the work they need to do but simply cannot get on with it. At the same time they are watching some of their crops losing quality which may mean the difference between the spring barley reaching malting quality or simply having to be sold for feed barley. This would reduce the value of the crop by £25-30/t which will make a huge difference to the bottom line.

“Furthermore, because it has been so wet, the grain which is being harvested is coming off at a relatively high moisture content and in most instances this will need to be dried before it can be safely stored which is another cost. It also makes harvesting so much more time consuming in that in most instances, this will involve handling the grain several times as piles of “wet” corn are temporarily stored ready to be put through the drier and then moved again to the permanent storage.

“We are also seeing some crops going flat altogether, especially where they are hit by heavy rain storms or simply “brackling over” where barley starts to collapse. In such instances, there will be a loss in yield as grain is simply shed on the ground or it just becomes very difficult for the combines to effectively pick up the crops which have gone over.

“So, although crop prices remain better than they were before the currency devalued following the Brexit vote, the weather is now holding up the harvest. This generally reducing the value of the standing crop and making it more time consuming and expensive to dry the grain before storage. Having said that, we have been here before and no doubt we will be there again because statistically August is in fact one of the wettest months of the year.”